Emmanuel Macron and half a dozen of his top team are heading to the UK late next week. I write in The Sun today that they’ll sit down with Theresa May and a handful of senior Cabinet Ministers at Sandhurst for an Anglo-French defence summit.
The occasion should be a perfect opportunity for Theresa May to bend Macron’s ear on Brexit. After all, the whole meeting is devoted to the Anglo French security relationship which will be important, and continue, long after Brexit.
But May’s ability to lobby Macron will be impeded by the fact the British government still hasn’t decided precisely what Brexit deal it wants. The Cabinet didn’t discuss the Brexit end-state this week and it’s not on the agenda for next week either. However, I understand that the Brexit inner Cabinet will have a two-hour meeting next week as it begins to thrash out the UK position. Those on the committee expect there will be three of these meetings before Theresa May gives her big speech setting out what the UK wants, which is now expected in February.
However, those expecting white smoke at the end of next week’s meeting of the inner Cabinet will be disappointed. I am told, ‘Some issues are so large they can’t be resolved at a single meeting’.
Until the Cabinet comes to a collective view, the government can’t push its own preferred solution with the Commission and EU capitals. The lack of a detailed government prospectus for Brexit is also creating a vacuum that those politicians looking for another moment in the sun such as Nigel Farage and Tony Blair are filling with their talk of a second referendum.
May has never taken decisions quickly. But this vacuum is damaging the government at home and abroad. The sooner she says what Britain wants, the better.